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Kaingang language

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Title: Kaingang language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jê languages, Analytic languages, Yabutian languages, Krenak languages, Ofayé language
Collection: Analytic Languages, Indigenous Languages of the Americas, Isolating Languages, Jê Languages, Languages of Brazil
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Kaingang language

Native to Brazil
Region São Paulo, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul
Native speakers
unknown (18,000 cited 1989)[1]
    • Southern
      • Kaingang
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
kgp – Kaingang
zkp – São Paulo Kaingáng
Linguist list
qr7 Wayaná (Guayaná)

The Kaingang language (also spelled Kaingáng) is an indigenous language spoken in the South of Brazil, belonging to the language family.[2] The Kaingang nation has about 30,000  people, and about from 60% to 65% speak the language. The majority also speaks Portuguese.

The Kaingang and Xokleng were previously considered a single ethnicity, which went by a number of names, including Amhó, Dorin, Gualachi, Chiqui, Ingain, Botocudo, Ivitorocái (= Amho), Kamé, Kayurukré, Tain (= Ingain), Taven. Some of these may have been tribal names; others were exonyms. Those living along the coast at the time of the Conquest were called Guayaná, and are considered to be the ancestors of the Kaingang.[3] It's not known to what extent the names might have corresponded to dialectal differences.


  • Culture 1
  • Phonology 2
    • Consonants 2.1
    • Vowels 2.2
  • Orthography 3
  • Grammar 4
    • Postpositions 4.1
    • Verbs 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The Kaingang language is classified as a member of the Ge family, the largest language family in the Macro-Ge stock. The Kaingang territory occupies the modern states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul (and, until the beginning of the 20th century, Misiones, Argentina). Today they live in around 30 indigenous lands (similar to Native American reservations), especially at Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná.

In the 1960s, because of a missionary interest (conducted by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)), the language was studied by Ursula Wiesemann.[4]



A large number of allophones map to a set of 14 phonemes:[5]

Bilabial Dental/
Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p m~b t n~d ɲ~ɟ k ŋ~g ʔ
Fricative ɸ ç h
Approximant w ɹ j

All consonants have varying allophones depending on their position in the word and on the adjancency of nasal vowels:

  • The oral stops have prenasalized allophones [ᵐp, ⁿt, ᵑk] when following a nasal vowel. In unstressed syllables, /k/ is furthermore voiced to become [ᵑɡ].
  • The glottal stop /ʔ/ and the non-stop consonants are realized as fully nasalized [ʔ̃], [ɸ̃, ç̃, h̃, w̃, ɹ̃, j̃] preceding nasal vowels.
  • The phonemes /b, d, ɟ, ɡ/ are only realized as voiced oral stops between two oral vowels. They are realized as voiced prenasalized stops [ᵐb, ⁿd, ᶮɟ, ᵑɡ] when between a nasal and an oral vowel, as well as word-initially before oral vowels. Between an oral and a nasal vowel they are conversely realized as prestopped [ᵇm, ᵈn, ᶡɲ, ᶢŋ]. Between two nasal vowels, or word-initially before nasal vowels, they are realized as full nasal stops: [m, n, ɲ, ŋ]. The first two types of realization also apply when occurring in the syllable coda and followed by a non-nasal segment; these voiced/prenasalized will however be additionally unreleased: [⁽ᵐ⁾b˺, ⁽ⁿ⁾d˺, ⁽ᶮ⁾ɟ˺, ⁽ᵑ⁾ɡ˺]. However, by convention these stop-phonemes are always written as in the orthography.
  • When preceded by an oral vowel, the sequences /nt, ɲt, ŋk/ can be realized as geminate stops: [tː, cː, kː].
  • /ŋ/ is optionally labialized: [ɡʷ, ŋʷ], etc.
  • The non-glottal fricatives can word-initially be optionally realized as affricates [p͡ɸ, c͡ç] (including their nasal allophones: [p͡ɸ̃, c͡ç̃].)
  • /w/ can optionally be realized as a voiced bilabial fricative [β], and /j/ as a voiced palatal stop [ɟ]. When nasalized, /j/ varies between [j̃] and [ɲ].
  • Word-initially, /ɹ/ is preceded by an epenthetic [ə]; it is [ɾ] in tonic syllables and [l] in atonic syllables, and when nasalized, it varies between [ɾ̃] and [ɹ̃]. As a syllable coda it is a flap when oral and approximant when nasal, and may optionally be palatalized: [ɾʲ], [ɹ̃ᶮ].
  • Word-initially in a stressed syllable, /t/ may vary in realization between dental [t̪] and alveolar [t]. Following palatal consonants or preceding a close vowel, it can also realized as a palatal stop, [c].


Vowels Front Central/Back
Close i, ĩ u, ũ
Mid e ɤ o
Mid-Open ɛ, ɛ̃ ʌ, ʌ̃ ɔ, ɔ̃
Open ɑ

The vowels of the central column may be central or back: [ɑ~ɐ, ʌ~ɜ, ɤ~ɘ]. /i/ and /e/ are both realized as [ɪ] in atonic syllables, while /u/ and /o/ are both [ʊ].


Wiesemann proposed an alphabet for the language, which is still in use despite some problems. It is based on the Latin script, and consists of fourteen consonants and fourteen vowels, matching the fourteen consonants and fourteen vowels of the Kaingang language.

Vowels Consonants
Letter Sound Letter Sound
a ɑ f ɸ
á ʌ g ŋ~ɡ
ã ɔ̃ h h
e e j j
é ɛ k k
ɛ̃ m m~b
i i n n~d
ĩ ĩ nh ɲ~ɟ
o o p p
ó ɔ r ɹ
u u s ç
ũ ũ t t
y ɤ v w
ʌ̃ ' ʔ

There are dictionaries and a grammars available for Kaingang. A school was set up in 1969 to teach the Kaingang people to read and write their language. However, the school produced many Kaingang speakers who went back to their reservations to teach others and spread the writing innovations they learned. Only one of the dialects is used as the standard written form, though having the writing system provided a source of pride in the language for the Kaingang people. A Kaingang bible has been published, as well as a dictionary and other publications.

Examples of Kaingang writing can be found on Omniglot.



Kaingang makes use of postpositions.

  • goj: water
  • 'goj ki: in the water

Pospositions are also used to mark subject.

  • Mĩg vỹ venhvó tĩ. The guepard runs.
  • Kofá tóg pỹn tãnh. The old man killed the snake.


Kaingang verbs do not inflect.

  • rãgró: to plant
  • Ti tóg rãgró krãn huri. He planted beans.
  • Ẽg tóg rãgró krãn huri. We planted beans.


  1. ^ Kaingang at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    São Paulo Kaingáng at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Enciclopédia dos Povos Indígenas no Brasil - Instituto Socioambiental
  4. ^ Wiesemann, Ursula (1972). Die phonologische und grammatische Struktur der Kaingáng-Sprache (in German). The Hague: Mouton. 
  5. ^ Jolkesky, M. P. V. (2009). Fonologia e prosódia do Kaingáng falado em Cacique Doble (RS). Anais do XIV SETA - Seminário de Teses em Andamento, 3:675-685. Campinas: Editora do IEL-UNICAMP. (anexo)

D'Angelis, Wilmar R. (1998). Traços de modo e modos de traçar geometrias: línguas Macro-Jê & teoria fonológica. Tese de Doutorado, 2 vols. (in Portuguese). Campinas, Brazil: IEL-Unicamp. 

External links

  • Catálogo de Línguas Sul-Americanas: Kaingáng
  • Portal Kaingang
  • Kaingang phonology and Macro-Ge languages
  • Comparison of English and Kaingang phrases
  • The Kaingang-Austronesian Relationship Hypothesis
  • Possible Kaingang-Oceania Affinity
  • Kaingang and Austronesian
  • Jolkesky, M. P. V. (2006a). Língua, lexicografia e os SILogismos em Kaingang - Português Dicionário Bilingüe. (manuscrito)
  • Jolkesky, M. P. V. (2006b). Análise semiótica de um texto Kaingáng. (manuscrito)
  • Jolkesky, M. P. V.; Santos, L. C. (2008). Construções relativas restritivas em Kaingáng. Em: S. Telles & A. S. de Paula (orgs.) Topicalizando Macro-Jê, 247-260. Recife: NECTAR.
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